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La Velle E. Neal III and Phil Miller report on the Twins from wherever they make news

Postgame: McHugh effective without high velocity

    A handful of leftovers from a forgetting night at Minute Maid Park:    

    — Now the Twins know what opponents feel when Tommy Milone keeps them off-balance all night. Collin McHugh, whose fastball tops out around 88 mph, was brilliant on Friday, keeping the Twins in check for 7 2/3 innings, only allowing one baserunner — Joe Mauer, who was thrown out at the plate in the first inning — to reach third base all night. “His ball moves all over the place,” Mauer said. “When you change speeds, you don’t have to throw hard to get guys out. It’s pretty big differential between his curveball and his fastball.”

    That curveball was especially impressive, Molitor said of the righthander, who followed up his 11-9 season last year for the last-place Astros with a 15-7 start to this season. “McHugh was good. A lot of poise. We didn’t touch his curveball all night,” Molitor said. “He had good command of his cutter. It was kind of bleak overall.”

    — When Molitor reached home plate for the pregame exchange of lineups and review of the ground rules, he suddenly whirled and jogged back to the dugout. Turns out, he was about to turn over his own copy of the lineups, and not the copies that go to the umpires and Astros. Small mistake, but the manager looked a little sheepish as he went back out on the field with the correct lineups. They were all the same, Molitor said, he just grabbed the wrong ones.

    — Mike Pelfrey isn’t tired, he said, and he isn’t hurt. He just can’t find consistently put it all together lately. The righthander sounded more mystified than frustrated after Friday’s loss, but he said his rising number of starts and innings — with 146 2/3 innings this season, he’s only six behind the 152 2/3 he produced in 2013 — aren’t to blame. “It’s weird. I thought my stuff was OK tonight,” Pelfrey said. “It was better than last time at home, but it still wasn’t good enough. I felt pretty good, but I put us in a big hole again.”

    Pelfrey has allowed 14 runs in his last three starts, covering 12 1/3 innings. Home runs by Rasmus and Conger made Friday’s game the first time since his 2015 debut that Pelfrey had allowed two home runs, and his streak of seven straight games without allowing a homer, stretching for 42 2/3 innings, ended with Rasmus’ upper-deck shot to right in the second inning.

Twins, Astros welcome back injured outfielders

    HOUSTON — It’s the talk of Minute Maid Park. The former first-round pick is back tonight, the leadoff-hitting outfielder who was trying to establish himself as a potential star when an untimely injury interrupted his breakout season.

    Strangely, nobody in south Texas seems to notice that Aaron Hicks will be back atop the Twins’ lineup for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury Aug. 19.

    That’s probably because George Springer, the 11th pick of the 2011 draft, had 13 home runs and 14 stolen bases when he fractured his right wrist on July 2, leaving the Astros without one of their foundations for the future. Springer returns tonight as well, and like Hicks, he’ll be batting leadoff.

    Springer steps right back into the right field spot that he’s expected to hold for years. Hicks, on the other hand, is in center field — but knows it’s unlikely that he’ll be there much longer. Paul Molitor has made it clear that Byron Buxton will inherit that position eventually, with Hicks moving to a corner spot. Whether that’s right field or left hasn’t been determined for the long term, but Hicks said he’s more comfortable at the moment in right field. I asked Molitor whether a player’s preference comes into play when he makes out lineups, and the manager’s answer was succinct: “No.”

    Tonight, though, he stays in the center field spot he’s occupied his whole career, with Buxton, his batting average down to .189 at the moment, on the bench. Molitor said he believes having Hicks back will make a big difference to the Twins.

    “We saw such tremendous progress this year in how he played, particularly on the offensive side,” Molitor said. “We welcome him back. We’ve got him in there playing center field and leading off tonight, so it kind of changes our lineup and the depth we can bring.”

    Another big change for the Twins: Miguel Sano is back in the lineup, after being given yesterday off to rest his sore hamstring. Sano said the injury hasn’t healed, but it’s not as bad as it was a couple of days ago.

    The Astros’ lineup is deeper than the Twins have seen, too; shortstop Carlos Correa, who missed last weekend’s series in Target Field with, yes, a hamstring injury, is back and batting third.

    Here are tonight’s lineups for the first game of a nine-game road trip:

TWINS

 

Hicks CF

Dozier 2B

Mauer 1B

Sano DH

Plouffe 3B

Rosario LF

Hunter RF

Suzuki C

Escobar SS

 

Pelfrey RHP

 

ASTROS

 

Springer RF

Altuve 2B

Correa SS

Gattis DH

Lowrie 3B

Gomez CF

Rasmus LF

Valbuena 1B

Conger C

 

McHugh RHP

Final, 9/4 R H E
Minnesota 69-65 0 7 0
Houston 74-61 8 13 0

Today's Scoreboard

  • Arizona

    Chicago Cubs

     

    - F

    5

    14

  • Tampa Bay

    NY Yankees

     

    - F

    2

    5

  • Atlanta

    Washington

     

    - F

    2

    5

  • Baltimore

    Toronto

     

    - F

    10

    2

  • Cleveland

    Detroit

     

    - F

    8

    1

  • Philadelphia

    Boston

     

    - F

    5

    7

  • Milwaukee

    Cincinnati

    Postponed

  • NY Mets

    Miami

     

    - F

    5

    6

  • Minnesota

    Houston

     

    - F

    0

    8

  • Chicago White Sox

    Kansas City

     

    - F

    12

    1

  • Pittsburgh

    St. Louis

     

    - F

    9

    3

  • San Francisco

    Colorado

     

    - F

    1

    2

  • Texas

    LA Angels

     

    - F

    2

    5

  • Seattle

    Oakland

     

    - F

    11

    8

  • LA Dodgers

    San Diego

     

    - F

    8

    4

  • Indiana

    Minnesota

     

    - F

    65

    81

  • Connecticut

    San Antonio

     

    - F

    73

    72

No games for MLS

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